Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Confess and Believe

Here is a concise formulation of some good news.
But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10.8-10
The first thing that comes to me when I see this is, "What's the difference between being justified and being saved?"

With my degrees in math and engineering, here's what I think. I know just enough about these things to get myself into trouble, so please try not to laugh. Notice the symmetry in verses 9 and 10
if you confess with your mouth ...
and believe in your heart ...
you will be saved
For it is with your heart that you believe...
and it is with your mouth...
This symmetry isn't an accident. Paul, being a Jewish writer, uses this device (called chiasm or something like that) to let us know that the thing in the center is a key point -- just in case we didn't notice. Another implication is: this whole thing is a unit. That is, you don't create a Karnaugh map and try to fill it in like this:

not believe believe
not confess | not saved | saved maybe?? |
confess | saved maybe?? | saved for sure |

No, that's most certainly not what Paul has in mind.

Rather, he's saying that the process of being saved involves believing and confessing. How could you confess without believing? If you didn't believe, you wouldn't be confessing -- you'd be pretending or lying or something. And what is confession but an expression of what you actually believe?

True, the content is different -- you confess Jesus is Lord but what you believe is that God raised him from the dead. But it's mainly the words that differ. At the start of this letter to the Romans, Paul wrote that he was declared... to be the Son of God by his resurrection of the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1.4). These concepts, "raised from the dead" and "Lord" (and "Son of God) are inextricably bound together.

So what does Paul mean here by "saved"? I have an answer from Sunday School and church and books and sermons, but to see what the text says, I have to look at... well, at the text. I just started at this point and read backwards. Here's what I found.
  • attaining righteousness (9.30-10.2)
  • receiving mercy from God (9.23-24, 9.18)
  • being loved by God (9.13)
  • receiving the promise (9.8)
  • being chosen by God (8.33)
  • predestined to become like Jesus (8.29)
  • adopted as sons (male and female) and and heirs (8.15-17)
  • Spirit leads us (8.14)
  • Spirit lives in us and creates life in my spirit (8.11)
  • belong to Christ (8.9)
  • there is no condemnation (8.1)
There is lots more, including the free gift of God (that is, eternal life). I stopped going backwards when I got to the beginning of chapter 8.

I'd love to have "never struggle with sin" or "become perfect instantly" or "doubts vanish immediately" there, too, but I don't see 'em.

But I think this is still a pretty exciting list. Do you think so too? If it sounds interesting to you but you haven't "signed up" yet, why not do it now?

posted 7/27

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